A postcard from Retromobile: 21 treats to drool over

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► Retromobile 2024 in pictures
► Classic car heaven in Paris
► Our favourite cars and sights from the show

It’s difficult to comprehend the sheer scale of Retromobile, the literal multi-billion-pound value of the cars and wares on display. The finest exotica rub shoulders with humdrum everyday fare. You can assemble the ultimate dream garage if you have a 10-figure bank balance, or a scale version of it if you have more modest means.

You can give your wardrobe a car-themed makeover. You can find a rear light for a Lamborghini or a De Dion. You could build the ultimate motoring library. You can decorate the man cave to end all man caves. It’s all quite disorientating, even if you’re a repeat visitor. And then you realise you’re still only in the first hall.

Retromobile is one of Europe’s biggest and best car shows. Held at the Porte de Versailles in Paris every February, it features some of the major manufacturers showing off their back catalogue, the best dealers of significant cars display the most important cars available to buy anywhere in the world. Plus there are innumerable special displays, local car clubs, traders and artists.

Take a look at the exhibitor list on Retromobile’s website and you’ll get some idea of the size and scope of the show. Visit the websites of some of the dealers and you’ll see the kind of cars on display.

There is, of course, a heavy French accent to the event and it does help if you can speak – or at least understand – some of the language. Tickets are significantly cheaper than for any equivalent show in the UK, which is helpful as you need at least two days to see everything. And Paris is lovely in February. Retromobile really should be on any enthusiast’s list to go at least once. This year is my third…

Retromobile 2024 is on until Sunday 4 February, so there’s still time to get yourself there. Here are some of the many, many highlights.

Retromobile 2024

London-based dealer Joe Macari undoubtedly had the car of the show – this Mercedes CLK LM. Thought to be one of just four examples of the car that won every race in the 1998 FIA GT Championship, it was used for testing and development before being sold into private ownership. Unbelievably, it’s fully road legal and registered in the UK; no doubt it’s deeply challenging to drive. It shared stand space with the iconic Lark-liveried McLaren F1 GTR and Juan Pablo Montoya’s 2006 McLaren F1 car, among others.

Retromobile 2024

While we’re on the subject of truly iconic racing cars, how about this Ferrari 250 GTO on Swiss-based dealer Simon Kidston’s stand? Originally bought by race team owner John Coombs, it was driven to second place in the 1962 Tourist Trophy at Goodwood by none other than Graham Hill, taking time out from winning that year’s F1 World Championship. Also on the stand was a Ferrari 275 GTB proving that Ferraris look best in dark green.

Retromobile 2024

This is just one of the many stands at Retromobile purveying innumerable vintage car parts and enough ephemera to fill several shipping containers. We’ve no idea what car the lights in the foreground are for – suggestions in the comments, please.

Retromobile 2024

French auction house Artcurial stages a big sale at Retromobile every year. A quick glance through the catalogue produced a wish list that totalled well into eight figures. Highlight of the sale was this 1958 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder LWB, with a top estimate of €11.5 million. Other notable entries included a 1967 Maserati Quattroporte fire truck and a McLaren Speedtail.

Retromobile 2024

There was a large display of cars that contested the Dakar Rally in its early days. Our favourite was this, surely one of the most bizarre examples of the Citroen DS that exists. Well, just about exists, given its derelict state. Built for the 1980 edition, it’s a cut-down Safari estate with a covered pick-up bed. Having made the finish, it had another shot in 1981 with a three-man crew sat side-by-side in a very cramped cockpit. In the background is a vintage Renault that contested the 1980 Dakar when it was already over 50 years old. Other cars in the display included a Peugeot 405 T15 and a Porsche 959.

Retromobile 2024

How much would you have wanted either of these pedal cars when you were a child? How much do you want them now? I’ll take the Citroen SM over the Renault Sport Spider, thanks.

Retromobile 2024

The most outlandish car at Retromobile was surely this Voisin C28 Aérosport coupe on restorer Dominique Tessier’s stand. Arch innovator Gabriel Voisin built some of the most technically advanced cars of the 1920s. He was primarily an aircraft manufacturer and experimented extensively with aerodynamics, the Aérosport being the culmination of that work. A slice of Art Deco perfection, it looks like its landed from the retro future. This photo doesn’t come close to showing the car’s elegance and intricacy.

Retromobile 2024

Many artists show their work at Retromobile but the sculptures produced by Antoine Dufilho really stood out. He uses shaped and curved strips of metal to create a silhouette of the subject that was real movement and energy. This is his interpretation of the Bugatti Veyron, presented at roughly three-quarters scale.

Retromobile 2024

Watchmaker Richard Mille displayed the Ferrari 499P that won the 2023 Le Mans 24 Hours, 58 years after the marque’s previous win, driven by James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Antonio Fuoco. It has become a tradition that the winning car isn’t cleaned up after the race and wears the grime and scars it accumulated throughout the race in perpetuity.

Retromobile 2024

MG celebrates its centenary in 2024 and marked the occasion with a huge display of significant cars at Retromobile. This wheeled flying saucer was our favourite. It’s the MG EX181, which Stirling Moss drove to five world speed records, clocking 245mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Retromobile 2024

It’s not just cars at Retromobile – there’s also a keen interest in aviation at the show. These fabulous models were on the stand of Art Aviation. Dread to think what the price is.

Retromobile 2024

We’ve seen some of the Dakar Rally’s past and here is its future – the Dacia Sandrider that will compete on the event in 2025 with Sébastien Loeb at the wheel. It was shown by FFSA, the French motorsport governing body, who featured a display of cars that Loeb had driven throughout his career. They included the Citroen Saxo Super 1600 he used to win the 2001 Junior World Rally Championship, and the Ford Puma Rally1 with which he won the 2022 Monte Carlo Rally.

Retromobile 2024

Renault showed a selection of its historic record-breaking machinery including the Caudron-Renault C360 aeroplane that achieved speeds of well over 200mph in the early 1930s. It’s a deeply, deeply beautiful thing, too.

Retromobile 2024

Volkswagen marked the 50th anniversary of the evergreen Golf, showing every generation from the Mk.1 up to the just-launched Mk.8.5.

Retromobile 2024

This freshly-restored 300SL Roadster from the collection of Mercedes-Benz Classic looked absolutely exquisite in grey with black wheels, finished off with some vintage skis on a boot-mounted rack. It’d look even more glamorous in St. Moritz today than it did 60 years ago.

Retromobile 2024

Where else would you find a beautifully restored vintage meat slicer? The picture doesn’t really show the attention to detail in its design and restoration – it’s as much art as machine. It’s also a repeat visitor to the show, but then it is priced at €18,000.

Retromobile 2024

There’s a section of Retromobile dedicated to cars for sale for less than €25,000. Among the cars on offer were a low-mileage E36-gen BMW 325i with a manual gearbox and no optional extras, a very clean V6-engined Citroen Xantia Activa and this, a base-spec 1988 Citroen AX 10 RE with just 61km on the clock. It’s the definition of ‘showroom fresh’. And a snip at €14,900.

Retromobile 2024

Skoda was once a maker of very fine luxury cars. Among them was the original Superb, six generations of which were built from 1934 to 1949. Most were built as limousines for use by government officials, industrialists and assorted bigwigs. Skoda showed three examples alongside the latest iteration of the Superb. It’s probably no coincidence that they look distinctly like contemporary Buicks.

Retromobile 2024

The near-mythical Peugeot 806 race car made an appearance on the stand of modelmaker Spark. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not actually a Super Tourer. Rather, it was built to Procar spec, a simplified version of Super Touring developed for the Belgian race series of the same name. The 806 racer was instigated by Belgian driver Pascal Witmeur and built by Kronos Racing from bits of Peugeot race and rally cars that were lying around, for the 1995 Spa 24 Hours. It proved quick in qualifying but retired from the race with engine troubles. It was being 3D scanned at the show – hence the dots on it – so keep an eye for a model of it in the near future.

Retromobile 2024

Here’s just a small selection of the thousands and thousands of models on sale at Retromobile. Whatever genre of vehicle you’re interested in, whether you want a vintage piece or a brand new one, there truly is something for everyone.

Retromobile 2024

To finish, a deeply personal one. This is a 1991 Renault 21 2.0 TXE hatchback. My grandad had this exact model (albeit in blue) for his last company car. I have many happy memories of it and yearn to own one, but the model is long extinct in the UK. And here one is, for sale, for just €3900. I’m still doing mental gymnastics working out how to put a deal together.   

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